Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

June 5, 2013

Homicide victim’s ID confirmed

TAHLEQUAH — Authorities on Tuesday officially confirmed the identity of a local professor found dead in her Tahlequah home last week.

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation said the victim, Dr. Tiffany Rene Maher, was found in her home on Kupsick by a Northeastern State University officer.

University President Dr. Steve Turner said the NSU Department of Public Safety responded to a call from the chemistry department Friday when Maher, an assistant professor of chemistry, had not arrived at an academic conference where she was scheduled to speak.

“Our officers responded to her home and the Tahlequah Police Department was subsequently contacted,” said Turner.

Details released about the homicide remain vague. The cause and manner of Maher’s death has not been officially determined.

New information also surfaced Tuesday with the release of a basic incident report filed by a Tahlequah police officer.

The report indicates officers smelled smoke inside Maher’s home when they arrived and discovered her death. Four cats were also found dead in the home.

One source has said the animals may have died as a result of a fire and the subsequent lack of oxygen in the home. The report filed Tuesday indicates arson is involved in the case.

Tahlequah Chief of Police Nate King said a certified fire investigation specialist with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is helping TPD and the OSBI investigate the fire in the home.

Police have not said whether any suspects have been pinpointed, but authorities in Tulsa discovered Maher’s missing car at an apartment complex near 81st Street and Highway 169 Monday evening. The man who reported the car to authorities said it had been parked there for about a week, according to media reports out of Tulsa.

“The Tulsa Police Department secured the vehicle until [Tahlequah] detectives arrived on scene,” King said. “The OSBI has been tasked with processing the vehicle for evidence. Detectives of the Tahlequah Police Department continue to follow up on leads in the case.”

The OSBI said analysts will try to lift fingerprints from Maher’s car in hopes of garnering new leads.

“[We] are grateful for the assistance provided by so many fellow law enforcement agencies and concerned citizens,” King said. “Anyone with information in regard to the murder of Tiffany Maher should contact the Tahlequah Police Department or the OSBI.”

A press release issued Tuesday by NSU described the campus community as “devastated and heartbroken” by the situation.

Maher “epitomized excellence in teaching and was respected and admired by her students and her colleagues on the Broken Arrow and Tahlequah campuses,” Turner said.

Maher joined NSU’s faculty in 2009. She was recently recognized by the NSU faculty with the university’s highest recognition, the Circle of Excellence Award for Teaching.

Dr. Martin Venneman, dean of the NSU College of Science and Health Professions, said the department was “stunned” to hear of Maher’s death.

“Not only has the college lost a Circle of Excellence in Teaching award-winner from its chemistry faculty, but it has lost a leader in the development of supplemental instruction across the lower division curricula as a way to enhance achievement of first-generation college students in rigorous general-education science and mathematics courses,” Venneman said. “Dr. Maher was known as a friend, an advocate, and a mentor by her students; revered by her peers as an exceptional educator; and respected throughout the College for her professional achievements.”

Friends and colleagues have said Maher was involved in the community and volunteered her time at student events while supporting local nonprofit groups for women. Maher’s neighbors have said she worked diligently to find new homes for stray cats.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Dr. Maher’s mother and father and her extended family,” said Turner. “While respecting the family’s privacy, NSU will continue to provide support to them, Dr. Maher’s students, and her colleagues as we face the unimaginable tragedy of losing such a gifted instructor and researcher at the age of 38.”

Plans are under way for a memorial service to be held late next week at the Tahlequah campus. University officials also indicated the Maher family will establish a scholarship program through the NSU Foundation.

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